Helmer’s College Softball Top 25 for Week 7
College softball is in full swing, with conference play ongoing, and as mentioned every week from here on out I’ll be releasing updated rankings. Here’s this week’s edition.
1. Oklahoma – After the level of domination during this 19-game winning streak, it’s going to take multiple losses to drop the Sooners from the top spot. They annihilated competition in the Omni Hall of Fame Classic, with three run-rules, including two over Weber State and one over Auburn, as well as another comfortable victory over Auburn and only one close decision against Northwestern.
2. Oklahoma State – The Cowgirls are still safely on my No. 2 line, even though some others have elevated Tennessee above them. They’ve won nine straight, including last week’s sweep of the OSU Mizuno Classic against Arizona State, Central Florida twice and Minnesota.
3. Tennessee – That’s not to say I don’t love the Vols. They are an absolute force right now, tying Oklahoma with a nation-long 19-game winning streak. True freshman Karlyn Pickens is quickly becoming a star in the circle, earning SEC Pitcher of the Week honors while aiding in a wiping of LSU in Baton Rouge.
4. UCLA – The Bruins are down a spot, and I nearly knocked them down two spots, given the team behind them’s dominance. But one of my usual protocols is not lowering teams when they win series, and that’s exactly what UCLA did against another then-Top 10 team in Washington.
5. Clemson – Here’s the first of three ACC teams in the Top 10, and the strongest as of now, considering its resumé. Valerie Cagle is the conference’s Pitcher of the Week for the fourth time in her career. She’s helped the Tigers to now 15 straight victories.
6. Stanford – Stanford holds steady despite seeing its 21-game winning streak come to a close over the weekend. It responded from a series opening loss to Oregon with a pair of wins and a series win in Eugene. It’s now 24-3.
7. Florida State – Based on what I saw up close and personal last week in a 5-4 loss at Oklahoma, I really like the Seminoles. They might not have a true ace, so to speak, but they’re deep in the circle and have plenty of arms to help their explosive offense lead the way. They took down Syracuse in a three-game sweep, setting up a massive three-game set with the following team.
8. Duke – That following team is one that many may seem to be letting fly under the radar. I am not. The Blue Devils are absolutely deserving of a Top 10 rank in advance of welcoming Florida State to Durham. They’re 25-5 after a three-game Tobacco Road sweep and ensuing win over Liberty.
9. Kentucky – The Wildcats endured those shellackings at the hands of Oklahoma a couple weeks ago, but that seems like ancient history now, if that’s even possible. They’ve responded with eight consecutive triumphs, dipping out of conference to down Liberty, DePaul and Michigan over the last week. Their record is now 19-5-1.
10. Georgia – The biggest riser over the past week is Georgia, who dominated Texas A&M in a three-game sweep College Station. They took the first two, then run-ruled the Aggies 8-0 in six innings for the sweep, improving to 24-6.
11. Florida – The Gators were my preseason pick to win the SEC, and I backed off of them some for a time when they struggled at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic. They’re starting to regain some traction for me and have neared the Top 10 once again. That’s after taking two of three over Missouri in a 3-1 week.
12. LSU – LSU is the latest reason Tennessee looks like a national championship contender and a team that could unseat Oklahoma. It scored only two runs in three games against the Vols, this after dominating Southeastern Louisiana. The Tigers should rebound nicely, though, and already started on that trend with a 6-2 win over McNeese.
13. Washington – The Huskies let a prime opportunity for a huge road series slip away. After taking game one in Westwood, they were unable to come up with another. They fell out of the Top 10 with that.
14. Virginia Tech – Virginia Tech jumps back over Texas after a perfect week. It swept Georgia Tech in its second ACC series. That improves the Hokies’ record to 22-5.
15. Texas – I had a bit of a tough time with this decision, but considering Texas and the team above split a pair earlier on in the season, wins and losses have to at least count some. Texas dropped one to South Florida, but did avenge it with a 6-1 win. It fared 4-1 in the South Florida Showdown.
16. Arkansas – Arkansas stabilized some after what’s been a very rough stretch. Chenise Delce outlasted Montana Fouts in a 10-inning duel for a series win. The Razorbacks took the final two games after dropping the first one, along with a mid-week run-rule setback at Wichita State.
17. Utah – The Utes now lead the Pac-12 Conference race through the first two weeks. Therefore, they surely belong as one of the top four teams in the loaded league. They’re 21-5 overall after grabbing two of three at Arizona.
18. Oregon – After missing out on an opportunity to claim a road series win to start Pac-12 play, the Ducks now dropped two out of three at home to Stanford at home. That puts them in a 2-4 hole. However, they’re still very much worthy of being in the Top 20, when looking at the teams around them and their 19-8 record.
19. Arizona – As mentioned, the Wildcats also fell in a competitive Pac-12 series. But I still like their trajectory with an offense led by like Allie Skaggs. She’s racked up 44 RBI with 10 doubles and a .388 batting average for 20-9 Arizona.
20. Baylor – Like Arkansas, Baylor hit a really rough stretch. That extended into last week some with a 5-2 loss to South Dakota State. But the Bears avenged that decision and then swept Houston in three games, adding a win over UT Arlington to their collection as well.
21. Texas A&M – It’s been a rollercoaster couple of weeks for the Aggies, who took two of three against Arkansas in Fayetteville, then let Georgia come to town and wipe them. It doesn’t get any easier here, with Kentucky on deck after a midweek game against Louisiana Tech.
22. Alabama – I am really off of the Crimson Tide, and it’s taking everything I have to keep them in the Top 25, to be honest. Fouts is having to shoulder the entire load, and that’s just not going to be enough. At some point, she’s going to wear down. I also wonder about the chemistry of the Tide.
23. Maryland – Maryland welcomed a surprisingly hot Texas Tech team to town, and that surprisingly hot Texas Tech downed it 6-1 in the first meeting. The two would split when Maryland took the second meeting 7-3. The Terrapins also defeated North Dakota and Bucknell, before the final game of the Capital City Classic was canceled.
24. Northwestern – You want to talk about an up-and-down team. This is one. I’ve had trouble at times keeping Northwestern near my rankings, but it’s impossible to ignore what it did last weekend in the Omni Hall of Fame Classic. Northwestern went toe-to-toe with Oklahoma in a 2-1 loss, sprinkling wins against Auburn and Weber State both twice, along with a midweek win over UIC. The Wildcats could be finding their footing heading into a crucial series against Minnesota.
25. Wichita State – There were several teams up for the final two spots, and ultimately Wichita State, too, secures one of them. The Shockers, despite falling to Minnesota, went 3-1 over the weekend and had that dominant 10-2 run-rule of Arkansas. They followed that up with a win over Kansas.
Just missed: Arizona State, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Texas Tech